Once upon an innovation: How to create compelling impact stories and drive change

Photo: WFP/Joerg Koch


Storytelling is as ancient as humanity itself. I will never forget my great grandfather’s stories narrating about wars and hardship, food, agriculture, family, community and joy. His voice and expressions were magnetic, and his stories are still as sharp now as when they were told over 20 years ago.

Impact story

An impact story is a powerful way to show the positive impact of your innovation on the community that it serves.

  • Share progress and the journey so far. This could be for fundraising, advocacy and digital communications activities.
  • Design and iterate. This could be to set a strategy, design for users, business modelling and implementing your pilot initiative.
  • Make better decisions. This could be for governance issues like strategy, risk, legals and financials, and to think about the power and decisions required of the community impacted.
  • Advocate for your community. This could be for users and reporting requirements, e.g. driven by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Continuously learn. This could be to grow your team, fail forward, navigate complexity and influence the systems you are engaged with.

Impact story framework

In returning to the question of how to tell the story of an innovation, I offer you a framework to use when you think about the relevance of an impact story. I have one tip from over 10 years of working in this field. Be proactive and fill in a framework like this today. It is urgent and important.

Now is the era of impact stories — the ability for an innovator to be bold, real and principled in their storytelling.

Your first draft is just that, a draft. You can change it, seek feedback and test and try it in different ways over time. The outcomes of this may empower you to feel secure, so that you can be creative, think of imagery, film and art, capture the right information, and ultimately, bring your vision to life.

  • What is the range of users, sectors and stories you cover?
  • What time frame are you referring to?
  • What is out of scope? This one is helpful to narrow your focus.
  • What is the one sentence they use to describe your innovation?
  • What is the one fact or piece of data they reference?
  • What is the call to action the audience remembers? e.g. Is it awareness, education and knowledge, driving them to act or change behaviour or something else?
  • Can you name the tribe or organisation?
  • Can you list the 3–5 people or roles that have influence?
  • How do you plan to reach them? i.e. the communication channels.
  • What are the keywords or pattern language that they care about?
  • What do you want your target audience to think, feel and do after learning of your impact story? For example, this could be clarity on your innovation, a roadmap of action to engage with you, or insights and inspiration from your work.

Looking ahead

Innovators in their nature are visionary, bold risk-takers. They have traditionally faced challenges of resource scarcity — money, time, and awareness of their work. Now, with the global pandemic fundamentally changing the way stories are shared, we are truly in the era of impact storytelling.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
WFP Innovation Accelerator

WFP Innovation Accelerator


Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.